Shaktisinh Gohil, new chief of Gujarat Congress, faces tough challenges ahead of 2024 LS polls

Gohil succeeds Jagdish Thakor under whom Congress put up a dismal show

shashikant-gohil-pti Shaktisinh Gohil | PTI

Quite often Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, Shaktisinh Gohil, has been seen presenting crucial details with facts and figures in the Upper House on matters of national importance. On most occasions, the details are unpleasant for the ruling party.

Now, with the appointment of Gohil as the Gujarat Congress president, he is expected to not only put his party in order, but also challenge the ruling BJP that is getting mightier in Gujarat with every passing year.

Sixty-three-year-old Gohil, a lawyer, succeeds Jagdish Thakor under whom the Congress put up a dismal show in December 2022 assembly elections. The party could only secure 17 out of the 182 assembly seats in Gujarat and lost the position of opposition leader in the assembly.

Gohil’s appointment as the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chairman comes at a time when parties are actively gearing up for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

While at the organisational level Gohil’s challenge will be to infuse confidence among the party’s foot soldiers, on the electoral front he is expected to help the party put up a reasonable show in the Lok Sabha elections. Gujarat sends 26 MPs and the Congress has drawn a blank in the 2014 and 2019 elections. In the year when the opposition is trying to put up a united front, each seat will be crucial for both the BJP and the Congress.

The Congress has experimented by changing the state leadership time and again but the attempts have been futile. The BJP has been in power in this western Indian state for more than two and a half decades, of which Narendra Modi was the chief minister from 2001 to 2014, until he became the Prime Minister.

Except for missing out from coming back to power five years ago by a few seats and winning majority of the district and taluka level panchayats before that, the Congress show has been poor. This despite the fact that the party does take up issues. The problem, however, is that it is unable to convince the masses.

Like the BJP in Gujarat that does not have a single leader having a mass appeal of the level of Modi or perhaps even Union Minister Amit Shah, the Congress, too, faces the same problem. Gohil, a former minister in Gujarat, is expected to tackle the party’s infighting and take everyone together.

From the current flock that is available in Gujarat for the party’s central leadership, there is not a single leader who has always succeeded, electorally. And Gohil is also one of those. His failure to win Lok Sabha elections once and assembly elections twice can be a major armour for his critics within the party and outside.

Gohil will have to overcome that with his personality and put in his experiences he has had at the national level as party’s spokesperson and AICC in-charge in a couple of states.

Hailing from Rajput clan in Limbda of Bhavnagar district, Gohil is a respected figure in his region.

Gohil, who was close to late Congress leader Ahmed Patel, had helped the latter win the crucial Rajya Sabha election in 2017 as an election agent. In the drama that had continued for hours and had reached the Election Commission of India on the count of the number of votes, Gohil put up the case strongly.

Having had the experience of remaining on various committees in Gujarat and at the Centre, Gohil has been seen with the Gandhi family from the beginning. In Saurashtra, he had driven Rajiv Gandhi in an open jeep, a photograph that emerges on social media quite often.

Congratulatory messages have started pouring in from the party leaders in Gujarat and now Gohil would expect and will have to take all of them in confidence and put up a united show to strengthen the party. All eyes are now set on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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